The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles!


Teaching at Aurukun, a campus of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy.

Many Queensland education graduates have to begin their teaching careers in remote communities such as Aurukun.

If you cannot or will not work in a remote area, you will probably not gain permanent employment in Queensland.

Living in some remote communities (like Thursday Island) can be a very positive experience.

But many young graduates don't want to spend years of their lives living in communities like Aurukun.

So fewer and fewer people want to become teachers.

And the entry standards to teaching degrees fall lower and lower.


The education of every child in Queensland suffers because of the situation in communities like Aurukun.


But it is not politically correct to talk about this situation.

In 1975 Aurukun was a Presbyterian mission.

In 1975 Aurukun was a Presbyterian mission.

The Queensland government seized control of Aurukun's extensive bauxite reserves and gave them to a French multinational, Pechiney.

The Presbyterian Church supported legal and political campaigns by the Wik people against the Queensland government's actions.


Crisis in the community, Fiona Jose, The Courier-Mail, 19 March 2016

Before 1978 Aurukun was a calm community.

Before the 1978 'takeover', respectful kinship relationships meant everything to the Wik people of Western Cape York.

A hybrid of traditional and missionary authority and paternalism gave an order to the Aurukun mission.


 Crisis in the community, Fiona Jose, The Courier-Mail, 19 March 2016

But in 1978 the Queensland government 'tookover' Aurukun from the Presbyterian church.

In 1978 the Queensland government under then-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen kicked the Presbyterian church out of Aurukun and 'took over' the community.

Aurukun was no longer a mission.

Now it was a shire.

The traditional and missionary authority in the community was shattered, and not replaced.

The shire needed money.

The only viable source of revenue was to open a wet canteen (pub) and encourage locals to spend their Commonwealth Government unemployment benefits in the canteen.

Many people in Aurukun opposed the opening of the wet canteen, particularly a strong group of Wik women.


 Crisis in the community, Fiona Jose, The Courier-Mail, 19 March 2016

In 1985 a wet canteen was opened at Aurukun.

In 1985 local government minister Russ Hinze finally forced the Aurukun canteen to open up against the objections of community elders.

And the rivers of grog began to flow. Family and clan relationships began to collapse.

Serious assaults became commonplace.

There were nine homicides in the five years after the opening of the local canteen.



 Crisis in the community, Fiona Jose, The Courier-Mail, 19 March 2016

In 1987 I went to Aurukun.

In 1987 I was based in Cairns, working as Regional Teacher-Linguist.

I flew out to Aurukun with one other teacher in early in 1987. 

Our accommodation was a hut in the school grounds.

The hut was totally covered with security wire.

It looked like a chicken-house.

It had a huge bolt inside to lock the door.

The hut was isolated at the end of the school playground and there was no phone.

If somebody had tried to break it, we would have been very vulnerable.


We could not prepare food in the hut because the kitchen was totally black, possibly from being burnt, so we were instructed to walk through the town in the evenings to and from a teacher's house, to eat dinner.

Our hut was surrounded by broken glass.

My main concern was that I would cut my feet walking over the glass.

After two nights the experienced teacher who was travelling with me decided to go back to Cairns. 

She advised me that it would be unsafe to stay in the hut alone, so, after two days, I also returned to Cairns.


I found it strange that I had studied for so many years to  gain "outstanding" qualifications - and my reward was to sleep in a chicken-hutch and to walk over broken glass at night.

By 1990 the crime rate in Aurukun had exploded.

A Four Corners (ABC TV current affairs program) report by David Marr declared the crime rate at Arukun in 1990 far worse than notorious American cities.


 Crisis in the community, Fiona Jose, The Courier-Mail, 19 March 2016

In 2003 Paula Shaw began teaching at Aurukun.

Paula Shaw began teaching in Aurukun in 2003, when she was 26.

Paula has written a book about her experience - Seven Seasons at Aurukun.

For any student who is considering taking a job as a teacher in a remote community, this book is a must-read.


Paula enjoyed the small-town experience of walking down the street and being greeted by almost everybody that she passed.

She was made very welcome by the families of her students.

She gained an insight into the local indigenous culture, values and beliefs.

She enjoyed going hunting, fishing and boating.


But Paula Shaw says that there were problems in Aurukun.

"When I was there it was not the nicest community ...

Certainly after dark you didn't go walking.

That was tavern time."


Paula successfully highlights the political and social issues surrounding the Aurukun community and, in particular, the hopelessness of teaching and education in general.

Paula's decision to leave Aurukun came from sheer exhaustion and her feelings of hopelessness and despair.



Advantages of isolation, Katherine Hartmann, page 1, Weekend Professional,The Australian, May 2-3, 2009.

In October 2007 nine terrified Aurukun teachers slept in the police station.

On the night of Wednesday 17 October 2007, nine terrified Aurukun school teachers and other public servants slept in a police station for protection, some of them in cells.

Meanwhile up to 200 members of two warring families in the Aurukun Aboriginal community brawled and rioted throughout the night.

Police cars were seriously vandalised, fires lit and homes bombarded with rocks and bottles.


There were only four police at Aurukun and Kowanyama.

Both communities were supposed to have 12 each.


The Queensland Police Service yesterday confirmed that the four police at Aurukun until Wednesday had been reinforced by three from the Tactical Crime Squad "at the time of the unrest".

"On advice of the unrest, five officers from Cairns were flown into the community and three drove from Weipa," a police spokesman said yesterday.

"A total 19 officers are now on the ground at Aurukun," he said.



"Police advised teachers to move to the police station at around midnight where they remained until 7am," a Queensland Education Department spokesman said.

"There were nine staff members in the police station.

They lived in close proximity to where the riots were happening.

Other teachers and staff members who lived further away chose not to move."


Teachers retreat to cells in Aurukun, 21 October 2007, Tony Koch, Chief Reporter in Queensland for The Australian newspaper, with special interest in politics, Aboriginal Australia and social justice issues


In 2009 the housing for Aurukun teachers was cr-p! Get your act together Education Queensland - protect your employees!
I lived in Aurukun in 2009 and thank my lucky stars I'm not there this year.
There are only two police officers on call at night (sometimes only one).
So if something else is happening in town you're on your own.
When I was there there were some lovely police officers and there were more moving in, but the housing for teachers is cr-p!
If you compare the safety of the nurses and police to the teachers you might want to change professions.
The teachers are spread out among the community!!!
Get your act together Queensland Ed.
Protect your employees or don't send them into a community which can cause people to leave the profession because work makes them feel that low!
I could go on... But I'll stop for now! :)
Not happy, Reader's Comment 13 of 16, Aurukun teachers fear for safety after attempted break-in and riot, Tanya Chilcott and Jorja Orreal, The Courier-Mail, 25 May 2010
During the 2009-2010 Christmas holidays there were ten break-ins to Aurukun teachers' homes.

There were ten break-ins to Aurukun teacher accommodation during the Christmas 2009-2010 holidays.

Two teachers, who had been the victims of these break-ins, quit Aurukun school during the first term of 2010.

Security guards have been hired to protect Aurukun teacher accommodation during the 10-day Easter holiday.

Teacher's homes in Aurukun will soon get CrimSafe screens.



Teachers flee Cape York town Aurukun in fear after spate of break-ins and torching of car, Carly Hennessy and Gavin King, The Sunday Mail, 4 April 2010.

Binge drinking fuels an ongoing crime wave.

Tortured history of violence, Russell Skelton, The Age, 22 December 2007.

In April 2010 an Aurukun teacher's mother urged the department not to send young teachers to remote schools to be worn down emotionally and professionally.

As the mother of one of the teachers who left Aurukun after finding his home broken into and his worldly possessions trashed, I am sickened by the toll it takes on teachers.

Young graduates are being sent to remote areas to fend for themselves and then left without support by Education Queensland, both whilst working there and also when they return to find their possessions desecrated.

After somehow managing to stay a whole year (an achievement in these remote and difficult locations), my son returned to Aurukun to find his clothes being openly worn around the area.

As far as we know, no responsibility taken. ...

What is the answer?

Yes, make the accommodation secure.

But also- don't send graduates to these remote areas to wear them down both emotionally and professionally, so that they elect to leave the profession before they have had an opportunity to "teach" in an environment that offers some professional growth and satisfaction.



Frustrated, Readers' Comment, Teachers flee Cape York town Aurukun in fear after spate of break-ins and torching of car, Carly Hennessy and Gavin King, The Sunday Mail, 4 April 2010.

In May 2010 three Aurukun men allegedly tried to break into teacher accommodation. Two terrified women teachers tried to call the police.

On 24 May 2010 tension had been building in Aurukun since a riot the previous week - "just fighting between families - nothing out of the ordinary here".


 At about 3.15am three Aurukun men climbed a fence around an Education Queensland teachers' residence.

Two female teachers, both aged under 26, were sleeping in the house.

The three men allegedly tried to break into a side door and then the front door of the house.

They triggered the security lights and this woke the teachers.

The terrified female teachers yelled that they would call the poilce.

The three men then climbed back over the fence and ran away.



The teachers later found a roll of duct tape outside their home.



"There could have been a multiple rape or anything if they (the intruders) got in," Queensland Teachers' Union Peninsula Organiser Maureen Duffy said.



Unbeknown to the three intruders, when the teachers had tried to call the Aurukun police, their 000 call had been diverted to Cairns.

And when the Aurukun principal tried to call Aurukun police at about 8.30am that morning, his call was also diverted to Cairns.



Ms Duffy said that the two female teachers had been "rattled" by the incident and were now staying at the homes of other staff members.

Another female staff member at Western Cape College's Aurukun campus said someone had recently tried to break into her home.

Ms Duffy said that Aurukun teachers may ask for razor wire around their homes.



Union concerned for safety of isolated teachers, Kristy Sexton-McGrath, ABC News, 25 May 2010.

Fears for teacher safety, Stephanie Harrington, The Cairns Post, 25 May 2010.

Teachers involved in attempted break-in at Aurukun, Tanya Chilcott and Jorja Orreal, The Courier-Mail, 25 May 2010.

In May 2010 a Queensland teacher asked : how long is this going to go on? How many of the teachers who are sent out to work at Aurukun are given the hard facts about living and working at Aurukun?
How long will this go on Education Queensland?
Sending young teachers, older teachers, any teachers to Aurukun.
How many of these teachers when offered a teaching position in Aurukun are given the hard facts?
Or any facts about the working and living conditions in this particular town?
Teacher of Sth East QLD, Comment 10 of 16, Aurukun teachers fear for safety after attempted break-in and riot, Tanya Chilcott and Jorja Orreal, The Courier-Mail, 25 May 2010
In July 2011 Aurukun children were screaming at all hours of the night, cars were hooning around and residents lived in fear of their departmental accommodation being broken into.

Many Aurukun government and agency workers secure their vehicles at the Aurukun police compound overnight for fear the cars will be stolen.


On 21 July 2011, Aurukun police confirmed a small group of young people had broken into the Aurukun police compound about 5am.

Once inside, they broke into a car and smashed through the compound’s locked gates before dumping the car nearby.

It is understood it was the third attempt to break into the car that night.

One community member said, "No car is safe in Aurukun".


On Sunday up to $100,000 worth of damage was done in a vandalism rampage at the community swimming pool .


An Aurukun resident, who asked not to be named, said the all-night rampages of young people were making life unbearable in the small community.

"I would like to be able to sleep at night without being woken up by kids screaming at all hours, without cars hooning around and without fear of being broken into," the resident said.


Aurukun, on Cape York, under siege as children run riot, Gavin King, additional reporting, Cait Bester, 21 July 2011, The Cairns Post

In October 2012, Queensland government employees live in fear at Aurukun.

Queensland government employees say they are living in fear after a spate of knifepoint car-jackings, bashings and break-ins in the far northern community of Aurukun.


In October 2012 a Queensland Health employee was attacked with a tree branch at a party after a fight erupted between two other people.


The following day another Queensland Health worker was car-jacked.


Police have also confirmed a third attack on a woman who entered the town on October 17 for a job interview for a senior government role.

She had three children in the vehicle when she was car-jacked.


Cape York Hospital and Health Service chief executive Susan Turner said they were "extremely concerned at the increasing level of violence" which appeared to have escalated during the past two months.

Queensland Health is considering pulling staff from the Aurukun medical centre.

Two women bashed in central Queensland Aboriginal community latest in string of similar attacks on government employees, Kate Kyriacou, The Courier-Mail, 8 November 2012 
In March 2013 the Aurukun school was shut and barricaded.

On 5 March 2013 the Aurukun school was shut and barricaded.


The Aurukun hospital and shops were also in lockdown, after violent clashes between tribal clans armed with spears and bows and arrows.

There have been a series of pitched street fights in a blood feud.


Aurukun Health staff reported that as many as 100 people had been roaming the streets making death threats.


Extra police have been flown into Aurukun.


Cape York acting Inspector Chris Hodgman said that one man had been shooting a firearm indiscriminately into the air at no particular target.


Blood feud spills on to streets, Peter Michael, p. 4, The Courier-Mail, 6 March 2013.

In early 2013 the Preventing Youth S-xual violence and Abuse in West Cairns and Aurukun Report was written - but not released.

The Preventing Youth S-xual Violence and Abuse in West Cairns and Aurukun Report, written by Griffith university's Stephen Smallbone, raised questions about what hungry children are prepared to do for food and money, and how some community leaders turn a blind eye to abuse.

It is understood some children may be offering s-xual favours in public places, including school toilets, for food and money.

S-xually-transmitted diseases are rife in the communities and, in some cases, small children have become infected.

The problem was so bad in Aurukun, that it has been urged boys and girls be separated in primary schools and they be accompanied by an adult when going to the toilet.

The report revealed a remote community in which people were unlikely to intervene when witnessing or knowing about abuse because of fear of reprisals.


"Most children in the community appear to have become s-xually involved, usually with peers and adolescents but also sometimes with adults, by age 10-12," the report said.

"Much of this involves varying degrees of peer pressure, coercion, and s-xual teasing.

"Some incidents involve serious violence, including with weapons and other objects."


Professor Smallbone urged former Queensland premier Campbell Newman to be cautious of releasing his report because it could identify victims and lead to reprisals.


Smallbone report reveals shocking child s-xual abuse cases in north Queensland, Renee Viellaris, The Courier-Mail, 12 March 2016.

In March 2015 Aurukun teachers were being given injections, etc. by a "clinical nurse" with no formal training in nursing. "Pure blind luck no one was seriously injured".

For six weeks in February and March 2015 Nicholas William Crawford, 30, worked at Aurukun as a "clinical nurse" on a $100,000-per-year salary. 

He treated about 160 patients.

For six weeks he allegedly gave injections to Aurukun school teachers, a police officer and residents.

He performed minor surgical procedures.

He doled out painkillers and "over" and "under" presctibed dangerous drugs like morphine in doses that had the potential to kill.

But Crawford had no formal training in nursing.

He had allegedly worked as an emergency call centre operator, where he had managed to "pick up the lingo".

Detective Sergeant Adrian Worth, who is leading an investigation into the allegations, says it was "pure blind luck no one was seriously injured or died because of his alleged actions".


Unhealthy obsession, Peter Michael and Jill Poulson, p.5, The Courier-Mail 9 August 2015.

Health failure raises alarm, Editorial, p.54, The Sunday Mail, 9 August 2015

In November 2015 Arukun was in lockdown once again. Some Aurukun teachers had left because of safety fears.

Aurukun was in lockdown again on Monday 23 November 2015 after a chaotic night of gunfire, rioting and screaming left Aurukun residents too scared to venture outside their homes.


About 7.20pm on Saturday 21 November, a police car was hit with shotgun pellets and a group of men began throwing rocks at police officers.


About 9.30pm, a 30-year-old man was hit by a car and killed.


Then an out-of-control mob wreaked havoc, allegedly torching another vehicle.


A source, who asked not to be named, said the town was being held hostage by an "alcohol-fuelled mob mentality".

"There was lots of gunfire, lots of drunks and lots of screaming and yelling," the man said.

"I was definitely concerned and just turned off the lights and went into lockdown."

"It's been building for a while, like a powder keg waiting to go off."

He said Aurukun residents mostly stayed indoors on Sunday 22 November, as extra police from Weipa and Cairns were flown in.



"I've been to some wild places around the world and this one takes the cake," he said.


Aurukun school was put in lockdown on Monday 23 November.


Some teachers have left Aurukun because of safety fears.



Gunfire and fear in Far North Queensland community's weekend of chaos, Hayden Smith, The Cairns Post, 23 November 2015

Aurukun teachers leave over safety fears, AAP, The Brisbane Times,  24 November 2015

Early 2016 : Aurukun Academy achieves good NAPLAN results.

When the University of Melbourne's John Hattie examined the NAPLAN results for Aurukun in early 2016, he found that Year 3 reading and numeracy were improving at a faster rate than the national average.

"The program is truly making a difference; the sobering news is that the students have to make three-plus years' growth in a year to catch up," Hattie said in June.



This is an excellent article, well-worth reading in full -

Direct  Interference, Chris Mitchell, former editor of The Courier-Mail, ambassador for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, p. 20-21, The Weekend Australian, 20-21 August  2016

Early in the morning of Sunday 8 May 2016 a group of teenagers tried to break into a departmental house occupied by two female teachers.

At 1.07am, early on Sunday morning, two female Aurukun teachers called the police about youths who were trying to break in to their departmental accommodation.

The police took 38 minutes to respond.

The teacher's phone calls were allegedly diverted to Weipa police.

Weipa Police contacted Aurukun police.

But Aurukun police were out on the road, apparently conducting some sort of operation.

The Aurukun police were unable to respond to the immediate issue in the community, so they contacted the Aurukun school principal, Scott Fatnowna,  and made him aware of the situation.



Editor's Note : I know from personal experience that the young policemen in these remote communities do a terrific job in very difficult circumstances. 



Mr Fatnowna drove to the teachers' house to try to help.

He was confronted by a group of 20 teenagers, one brandishing an axe.

The teenagers allegedly assaulted Mr Fatnowna with the handle of the axe.

They then stole his departmental vehicle and went riding around the community.


The police arrived at 1.45am.


Let's hope that Aurukun principal Scott Fatnowa's courage is recognised in some public manner.


Police response to Aurukun unrest under fire, Kate McKenna, Sarah Vogler, The Courier-Mail, 12 May 2016.

School principal set upon by 20 youths on Cape York Peninsula, Annie Guest, AM with Michael Brissenden, 11 May 2016

Aurukun unrest due to sly grog, not family feud : Billy Gordon, Amy Remeikis, Brisbane Times, 11 May 2016

Monday 9 May 2016 : the Aurukun teachers held a union meeting.

Teachers at the Aurukun campus of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy held a union meeting to discuss personal safety concerns.


The Aurukun teachers passed five motions, including -

1) They expressed fear.

2) They wanted to be removed from the community on full pay.

3) They wanted their housing security be upgraded to 24 hours and they wanted fences to be concreted in the ground.

4) They wanted construction to begin on a "teacher community safe precinct" by the end of 2016.

5) They wanted increased incentives for teachers living and working at Aurukun.



Education minister Kate Jones moves to evacuate teachers from Aurukun's Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy, Kate Mckenna, AAP, The Courier-Mail, 10 May 2016

Tuesday 10 May : 2016 the Arukun teachers were evacuated.

Education Minister Kate Jones spoke to the Aurukun principal.

"After considering these concerns and resolutions put forward by staff I have given my full support to the executive principal's decision to temporarily close the Aurukun campus of Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy for a period of five school days," Ms Jones said.

"We will review the situation prior to re-opening the school." 


Ms Jones also said the Education Department would undertake an immediate review of its infrastructure and security in Aurukun.


25 Aurukun teachers and fellow school staffers were ordered to evacuate.

They were relocated to Cairns by police.


"It is, I think, unprecedented to have the teaching staff vote unanimously for this type of action, to be removed from harm's way. And I think this breaks new ground for Aurukun,"  commented Independent Cook MP Billy Gordon.

"But you know, the big concern for me is that they have an indigenous principal there, who has been threatened,there have been reports he has been assaulted ... and I think teachers are signalling, particularly non-indigenous teachers, in the community, I think if they can assault or threaten one of their own, then it is quite dire'.

"There will be some teachers who will not want to go back, which is a tragedy."


Public Works and Housing staff were sent to Aurukun on Tuesday to review security of the teacher's accommodation.

Improved security fencing and cameras could be installed.

An additional five police officers have been sent to the community.


Teachers evacuated from Aurukun over safety concerns, Nathanel Cooper, Brisbane Times, 10 May 2016

 Aurukun unrest due to sly grog, not family feud : Billy Gordon, Amy Remeikis, Brisbane Times, 11 May 2016

 Cape York school to boost teacher security, Kimberly Vlasic, The Cairns Post, 12 May 2016

11 May 2016 : the Aurukun axe-man faces court.

Jonathan Raymond Ngukyunkwokka,19, one of six males accused of using an axe to threaten the Aurukun principal and steal his car, appeared in the Cairns Magistrates Court.


(Editor's note : so principal Scott Fatnowna was not attacked by a Year 8 or 9 schoolchildren, but by at least one adult.)


Mr Ngukyunkwokka was charged with robbery with actual violence in custody and unlawful use of a motor vehicle.


Cape York school to boost teacher security, Kimberly Vlasic, The Cairns Post, 12 May 2016

The Aurukun community must deal with their problems.

"Throwing more money at the problem is not the solution," said Curtis Pitt, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister.

Mr Pitt said he would fly out to Aurukun and ask local leaders to commit to meaningful strategies to tackle the complex and pervasive issues behind the kinds of violence which had forced the Aurukun school to close.


Curtis Pitt to fly to Aurukun for emergency talks, Kim Stephens, The Brisbane Times, 13 May 2016

18 May 2016 : Most Aurukun teachers return.

On 18 May 2016, most of the teachers who had been evacuated from Aurukun returned to the school.

Twenty-five teachers had been evacuated.

Five teachers had chosen not to return.


Queensland Teachers Union spokesman Kevin Bates said a recruitment drive was underway to replace the teachers who had not returned.

Teachers who had already used the "Direct Instruction" teaching method would be brought in from other Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy schools.



"There are ... a significant number of people who particularly ask to go to Aurukun because they know of its history and the special things and the challenges," said Don Anderson, who was principal of Aurukun school in the late 1980s.

"They want to play the A-grade, they want to be part of the main game, and Aurukun allows you to be at the cutting edge of education reform and delivery."


Additional security has been provided.



 Aurukun leaders say 'there needs to be zero tolerance'  by police following second teacher evacuation, Peter Michael, Dominic Geiger, Sarah Vogler, The Courier-Mail, 26 May 2016

Cape York school reopens at Aurukun 10 days after teachers evacuated, ABC news, 19 May 2016

25 May 2016 : the Aurukun teachers were evacuated for a second time.

On Saturday 21 May 2016 Aurukun school principal Scott Fatnowna and his wife were returning home after visiting colleagues when Mr Fatnowa's car was stolen again by three youths carrying machetes and knives.

Two of these youths were the same ones who had stolen Mr Fatnowa's car on 8 May.

The youths allegedly took Mr Fatnowna's government car for a joyride.

It got bogged just out of town.


The teachers voted to remain in the community.

Education Minister Kate Jones praised the teachers.


But on Wednesday 25 May 2016 the Aurukun school was ordered shut for eight weeks and the teachers were evacuated for a second time, following more violence.

A group of children, some as young as six, had allegedly tried to break into a guest house and steal a car.

They had pelted rocks at houses and security guards at 3.00am.

The attacks appeared to be targeted  at the houses where the school principal and teachers live inside a fenced compound.


"I have great sympathy for the teachers," said Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart.

"They're not armed and they're not trained to deal with the type of violence that sometimes occurs in these communities."

"It is my clear understanding that the teachers fear for their personal safety."


Wik elder Phyllis Yunkaporta said the "troublemakers" were a group of about 60 "disengaged youth" who were fighting, stealing and threatening residents and workers in the community.


Mr Fatnowna and Leigh Schelks, executive principal of the Noel Pearson-led Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy in Aurukun, said they were "no longer able to protect the teaching staff at CYAAA Aurukun school campus ... due to the ongoing unrest in the community".


"The teachers have tried really, really hard," Queensland Teachers Union president  Kevin Bates said.

"But at night, every time there was a noise anywhere, they are awake and alert.

"Last night's incidents were the straw that broke the camel's back.

"The teachers said 'we can't live like this any longer'."

Mr Bates said the teachers' anxiety levels were high and they had been under huge emotional strain.


Aurukun mayor Dereck Walpo said the rest of the community "don't feel threatened enough to want to pack our bags and leave".


The CYAAA has begun advertising for replacement teachers to work at the Aurukun campus, saying the ideal candidates must "want to make a real difference to young people's lives". 


Kevin Bates and Noel Pearson agree the CYAAA Aurukun school teacher's accommodation is very run down and needs to be replaced.


There are now 17 police in the community.

Four extra police were to be sent out at the weekend.

The population of Aurukun is 900.


"You could put a hundred police in there, this is about the community stepping up when they've agreed to do that," Police Commissioner Stewart said.

"I actually think the parents have to be held to account.

"The community has to step up, parents have to step up to make Aurukun a safe place for everybody."


The website editor says : I think most Australian people are at a loss to know what to do about the Aurukun problem.

You have to think that it is costing the Australian taxpayer a huge amount of money to support this failing community.

The Aurkun community seem to want to blame the police for the unrest in the community.

What do other Australians think?


The comments on this article are interesting -


David : Why  don't some of the community elders turn up to the school and monitor the children?

Why don't community members take an interest in supporting and assisting the police?

The community elders and parents need to start taking responsibility.


Steve : It is up to the parents in the community to maintain discipline.

60 children causing the problem, a total population of 900 ... and 17 police and more to come.

I say write the town off.

Anyone who wants their child to get an education can move to where resources are respected.

The rest can stay in that hell without any funding going in.


John : Who in Education Queensland sent young female teachers to this outpost?


Axel : The problem stems from the fact that a prison / youth detention sentence is seen as a badge of honour by the youths / children involved, like the tribal initiation of old into manhood.


Bart : So the Aurukun elders are blaming the police.

As usual, the name of the game is to blame somebody else.

Imagine if the outnumbered cops did arrest anyone up there, let alone a couple of women fighting or a few wayward children.

Aurukun would riot, cars would be overturned, the police station would be surrounded and pelted with rocks, the rioters would threaten to burn it down and the police would be barricaded inside.


David : Let's imagine the authorities take a tough stance. 

They break out the riot gear, take the real troublemakers away, lock the worst up, ban the rest from returning to Aurukun for at least a year, take some of the brighest older students away on scholarships for education elsewhere, remove some of the most neglected children into foster homes eleswhere, open the school with armed guards and double police numbers.

Then wait for weapons grade whinging from the PC brigade, moaning and carrying on how the government is not justified in carrying out these measures.

We can't win here.



G: It almost seems as if the violent group want the Aurukun school to close.

Why else attack the teaching staff?

The best place for those who break the law is youth detention.

Having some experience of Parkville Youth Detention Centre in Melbourne, the detainees are in clean and safe accommodation, they are involved in sport and fitness, have good routines and they are receiving an excellent education.

Many of these young people say that being in Parkville has completely changed their lives.

If getting these violent youths off the streets in Aurukun will enable the 200 students who want to learn to go to school, then why not try this option?


This point of view seemed to be supported by an article about Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre in Perth, WA:


"It's common for them to say they prefer it in here," said Audrey Nettle, a welfare officer at the Banksia Hill centre.

"In here there is structure and we have got a routine. Imagine being a kid who's done that for six months, then they get released back to their family and they're thinking, 'We should be having breakfast now', but the fridge is empty. Some of the kids are breaking into houses just to get food."


In 1987 I was also told that children in the Cape communities would break into teachers' houses just for food.

Money would be left on the table, untouched.


 Elizabeth : Of course there is a high incidence of Aboriginal youth suicide in custody.

The elders don't want them locked up but they won't or can't control them themselves.

It is very difficult to overcome these issues.


Aurukun leaders say 'there needs to be zero tolerance'  by police following second teacher evacuation, Peter Michael, Dominic Geiger, Sarah Vogler, The Courier-Mail, 26 May 2016

Machete kids force Cape York's Aurukun school to close, Sarah Elks, The Australian, 26 May 2016

When all that's outside is a missing family, Paige Taylor, P.4, The Weekend Australian, 13-14 August 2016

Aurukun school to open despite principal's carjacking ordeal, ABC news, 25 May 2016

Aurukun teachers evacuated again over safety concerns, ABC news, 26 May 2016

27 May 2016 : Aurukun is 'the Afghanistan of teaching'.

Noel Pearson has condemned the living conditions for Aurukun teachers.

"There is a terrible insecurity in relation to the premises that teachers live in," he said.

"Its disgusting that we expect young Australians to go out to remote areas - the hardest gigs in education - this is the Afghanistan of teaching, it is that hard.

"We are asking people to do great service for us as a community and the least they should expect is good accommodation that is safe, quiet.

"And we haven't guaranteed that. The buildings are dilapidated ... and unfit for the teachers that live in them".


Aurukun is 'the Afghanistan of teaching', Noel Pearson says, ABC news, 27 May 2016
Noel Pearson : Aurukun Community leaders have failed. Successive governments have failed.

Mr Pearson said the Aurukun school was an oasis, an absolute beacon in the community.

It had inspired dozens of schools all over the country to adopt the Direct Instruction teaching method.

"I just find it heart-wrenching that a school that has inspired a movement here is shut down and children won't have access for the next several weeks."



Mr Pearson said community leaders had failed to put mechanisms in place to deal with the violence and disputes between families and other groups.

But he also laid blame on successive state government's failure to create jobs and economic opportunities in Aurukun.

"At the end  of the day we are reliant on government for the creation of job opportunities in remote places such as Aurukun," he said.


Robina Cosser says : I am not sure that I agree with Noel Pearson on this point.

Non-Aboriginal Australians like to spend weekends and holidays camping.

But they don't go off somewhere into the bush and say -

"Right, I want to live here in this very remote place where there is no work and I want Australian taxpayers to pay me the unemployment benefit because there is no work here and build me a suburban-type house here and send out all of Australia's best young teaching, nursing and police graduates to look after me here."


If people choose to live in remote areas where there is no work, I think they should be allowed to live a traditional life, going hunting for food, etc. 


And I (and many other Australian families) have enjoyed living for several weeks in a hut made out of leaves on a beach in Tonga.

I was told that the hut only cost $10 to build (in about 1982).

I don't see why Australian taxpayers have to build suburban-type houses for people who choose to live in remote areas.

Or why taxpayers have to keep paying for the houses to be repaired after they have been smashed up.

If ordinary Australians can enjoy living in a hut made out of leaves in remote areas, why can't Aboriginal Australians who choose to live in remote areas enjoy living in a hut that they have made themselves out of leaves?


Aurukun is 'the Afghanistan of teaching', Noel Pearson says, ABC news, 27 May 2016
6 July 2016 : The Queensland Labor government seem to have launched an attack on Noel Pearson's Aurukun Academy - presumably because it is cheaper and easier than dealing with the real problems at Aurukun.

The Queensland Department of Education have conducted a month-long review into the Aurukun's school.

Premier Anastasia Palaszezuk and Education Minister Kate Jones have announced that Noel Pearson's Cape York Aboriginal Australia Academy would continue to run the school in partnership with the department.


Robina Cosser says -

a) How did this ever become the question?

The problem was not with the Aurukun school, the problem was with -

 * a group of out-of-control teenagers who were trying to break into teachers' homes and who attacked the principal and stole his car

 * and with poorly designed and maintained teacher accommodation.

How did this become a problem with the school?


b) How can the department even consider questioning Noel Pearson's Academy?

Noel Pearson has to be one of the best brains in Australia, if not the best brain.

He has dedicated his life to dealing with the problems in Aboriginal Education.

This attack on his Academy is so very Queensland public service - to avoid dealing with the real problem and to launch an attack on somebody who is doing a good job.


The premier announced that a raft of changes would be made -

 * Every teacher would be given a personal distress alarm.


This is a good idea.

Actually every teacher in Queensland should be provided with a personal distress alarm.

The Aurukun teachers also need secure housing and there need to be enough police in the town to respond to the alarms.

The chairman of the community also needs to take responsibility for dealing with the behaviour of the teenagers.

The parents of the teenagers need to have their welfare payments tightly controlled until they start doing their jobs properly.

I also think there is a need to question the whole idea of people wanting to live in a remote area where there is no work and to be paid unemployment benefits while they are living there - and to expect that the rest of the Queensland community will send out their young people to live in ramshackle, unsafe accommodation and look after the people who have chosen to live in this remote area.

It is a stupid situation and it is putting people off becoming teachers - nobody wants to be trapped out in some violent community for three years.

The situation is impacting on all children in Queensland.

If the people of Aurukun had to find their own teachers they might treat them with a bit more respect.

And they would have to offer better salaries and better accommodation.

Teaching would be a more attractive career - and all children in Queensland would benefit.


The review warned that the content of the US-based learning method Direct Instruction was too Americanised.


Well - pay somebody to write an Australian version.


The Australian curriculum needs to play a more prominent role.

The language and culture of the WIK people needs to play a more prominent role.

The school will offer years 7 and 8 from next term to cater for children not ready for boarding school.

The operating budget may be cut.


Noel Pearson labelled the review's report a "hotch potch" that failed to take account of the special needs of his students.

He said that a parallel report should have been released into community safety and policing.

He attacked the singular focus on Aurukun's school as öne of the great mysteries of this episode".


Mr Pearson speak so much sense.

But this is Queensland.



Aurukun school problems addressed as Education Department steps in, Lauren Martyn-Jones, The Courier-Mail, 6 July 2016

Has the recent violence in the Aurukun community being used as a trojan horse?  Is there an agenda to gut the Aurukun Academy?

 Is there an agenda to gut the Cape York Academy?

Who is running this 'agenda'?


"The Aurukun school is being scapegoated, " says Kerrie Tamwoy, a senior Wik woman who has a nine-year-old son at the Aurukun school and children at boarding school and university in Brisbane.

Tamwoy is a strong supporter of Direct Instruction. " I have seen the results of Direct Instruction in the children. Not only with my own children. I have seen the confidence the children have when they are doing their work."

Tamwoy, like most Cape parents, many in the education bureaucracy, at the Cape York Academy and in the Queensland Teachers' Union suspect that the Labor government have an agenda to gut the Cape York Academy partnership and take back control of the Cape's schools.

They suspect that the recent community violence is being used as a trojan horse to this end.


Aboriginal educator Chris Sarra is one of the more vocal critics of Noel Pearson and Direct Instruction.


Robina Cosser says : But is Chris Sarra easily manipulated?

Is he being used as a puppet?

My own experience suggests to me that this is possible.


Don Anderson, 62, a very experienced principal and head of Noel Pearson's Djarragun school, suggests that Chris Sarra's ideas may be good for underprivileged schools, but Noel Pearson's students at Aurukun are not only underprivileged, they are traumatised.


Anderson believes that departmental bureaucrats are the real problem.

He believes that they are threatening to undo some of the good work that has been done at Aurukun.

Anderson points to the recent review and moves by departmental bureaucracy to impose workplace health and safety changes at the Aurukun school.


Is this all a power grab by Queensland Department of Education director-general Jim Watterston?


State Education Minister Kate Jones and Jim Watterston, insist that this is not true.

They say they are concerned about the safety of the teachers and other workplace practices.

There seems to be a suggestion that the school had no workplace health and safety committee.


Kate Jones is concerned at the number of young teachers with little experience on staff at Aurukun.


She has set up a taskforce within the department to try to get more experienced teachers out to rural and remote Queensland.


But experienced teachers - or any teachers - may not be attracted to live in Aurukun.

Would you want to spend two years of your life locked up in your house , too afraid to go out and about in the community? 


Robina Cosser says - before Kate Jones sends experienced teachers out to live in Queensland's rural and remote areas, she needs to make sure that they are provided with secure, single accommodation.

Or is this really a disguised economy drive - a strategy to drive older teachers to resignation -  so they can be replaced by cheaper, less experienced teachers?


The Wik Women's Group support the school.

They are concerned that the extended school day at Aurukun has been cut back from a finish time of 4.00pm to 2.30pm.

They believe that the extended day has been crucial in allowing the Aurukun children to catch up with mainstream children.

They complain that Direct Instruction is also being cut back.

They allege that Direct Instruction has been cut back across all years during this term.


Former mayor Neville Pootchemunka was a big supporter of the Cape York Academy.

Unfortunately he died in April 2012.

His successor, Dereck Walpo, is not a supporter of the CYA or of Direct Instruction. 

He wants a return to a traditional secondary school in Aurukun.

Others in the Queensland education system agree that the lack of a secondary school at Aurukun has left those teenagers without the ability to make a transition to boarding school with no access to any education.

And the problem became worse in 2015, when the Queensland government moved Year 7 from primary to high school.

Children leave the Cape York Academy aged 12 and have no school.


Jim Watterston says that Aurukun students have problems transitioning from the strong structure of Direct Instruction to the less structured environment of a boarding school or workplace.

He believes that the lack of secondary education at Aurukun leaves too many teenagers at a loose end.

"There needs to be a pathway for those kids to give them a way forward for later in life," Watterston says.


Ian Mackie, former president of the Queensland Teacher's Union and former assistant director-general for indigenous education, thinks this is the core problem.

"I don't see Direct Instruction as the problem at Aurukun," Mackie says.  "The central problem is the lack of a secondary school".

Mackie says there is a need to 'map' the job opportunities on the Cape, then to provide an education geared to these job opportunities.


Peter Beattie and Don Anderson both comment on how difficult it can be to deal with the bureaucracy - because they will kill any reform they see as against their interests.


Robina Cosser says : It certainly is a bit worrying to think that a Queensland state premier had difficulty controlling the bureaucracy.


This is an excellent article, well-worth reading in full -

Direct  Interference, Chris Mitchell, former editor of The Courier-Mail, ambassador for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, p. 20-21, The Weekend Australian, 20-21 August  2016

The really bad message that the attack on Aurukun principal Scott Fatnowna  is sending all Indigenous children.

Robina Cosser says : The really bad message that the attack on Aurukun principal Scott Fatnowna is sending Indigenous children is this-


Work hard, go to school go to uni.

Then you will be sent out to a remote community to live in a poorly-built, insecure house.

You will have to be be locked in your house every night because of the violence in the community.

You will have difficulty eating properly because fresh food is hard to obtain and very expensive.

The noise we will make will keep you awake all night.

And we will allow / encourage our children to throw stones at your house, attack you with knives and steal your car.


This will be your reward for going to school and getting an education.


2 September 2016 : CYAA Arukun Campus opens again for Term 3 2016.

The Aurukun Campus of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy had been closed for six weeks.

During the closure significant works had been completed to improve the personal safety and security of CYAAAAC staff.

Major developments in teacher accommodation included the installation of electronic security systems in all properties, improved security lighting, improved fencing and personal duress alarms.

Representatives of the school staff have been appointed to work with DET facilities on the design and placement of a new housing precinct.

Additional staff, including a deputy principal, head of special education services, guidance officer and principal coach, have been appointed to support the school.

Secondary schooling will be re-introduced for years 7 and 8. 

A support program will be offered for all year 9,10, 11 and 12 students who fell unable to study at a boarding school.


Aurukun update : Campus reopens, Kevin Bates, p. 15, Queensland Teachers Journal, Volume 121 Number 6,  2 September 2016

6 September 2016 : a whistleblower has written to Kate Jones to warn her that Aurukun students are still out of control.

The Aurukun school re-opened this term.


Phyllis Yunkaporta works as a teacher's aide at the school.

Ms Yunkaporta has written to Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones to warn her that students are climbing onto the school roof and that the teachers are struggling to control their bad behaviour.

Ms Yunkaporta says that the school is "falling apart in front of our very eyes".


Patrea Walton is Queensland's Deputy Director-General of state schools.

Ms Walton did not thank Ms Yunkaporta for telling Kate Jones what is going on at the Aurukun school.

Ms Walton said that Ms Yunkaporta had a number of opportunities to raise her concerns but had not done so.


Maybe Ms Yunkaporta expected that other, more senior, people would tell Ms Jones what was going on at the school.

And maybe they were too afraid.

Anyhow, now Kate Jones and Patrea Walton know about the children's bad behaviour, what are they going to do about it?


Put Ms Yunkaporta on Managing Unsatisfactory Performance?


Teacher's aide warns of trouble at Aurukun, Lauren Martyn-Jones, p.6, The Courier-Mail, 6 September 2016

I think there may be a little war going on at Aurukun.

I am beginning to wonder if there is a little war going on at Aurukun - and if the out-of-control children are actually warriors in this little war.

Could the children have been encouraged to attack the principal?


On one side of the Aurukun war is -

1) Noel Pearson, possibly the most intelligent and articulate man in Australia.

2) Phyllis Yunkaporta, Aurukun teacher's aide and Wik Women's Group member, who supports Mr Pearson.


But on the other side of this little Aurukun war are ranged -


1) Mayor Derek Walpo, who wants the name of the school changed to remove the link with the Cape York Academy.

2) And Labor Education Minister Kate Jones, who is listening to Derek Walpo tell her that "there is a really good feeling on the ground".


(Just what we need in Queensland - back to an education system based on "feelings".

Sometimes I wonder if Education Minister Kate Jones is really very bright.)


Ms Jones has rejected Ms Yunkaporta's letter to her, warning her that the children were climbing onto the roof of the school and the teachers were struggling to cope.

3) And Patrea Walton, Queensland's Deputy Director-General of state schools.

Who has also criticised Ms Yunkaporta.



A number of new teachers have arrived in Aurukun to work at the school.

Kate Jones says these new teachers have gone to Aurukun voluntarily because they "want to make a difference".


Ms Yunkaporta alleges that water has been poured on a female student's head in an attempt to discipline her.


Aurukun school controversy continues, Dominic Geiger, The Cairns Post, 8 September 2016

The department offers $183.760 +++ per annum in the hunt for a new Aurukun executive principal.

Leigh Schelks is the executive principal of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy in Aurukun.

Scott Fatnowna is the principal.

Leigh Schelks now seems to have resigned and the department is advertising for a replacement executive principal.

The department are offering a salary package of $183,760 a year to anybody willing to live and work in Aurukun.

In addition, the executive principal will be paid a locality allowance, subsidised accommodation, transfer expenses and a negotiable start date (but at the earliest available opportunity).

Big bucks on offer at Aurukun, Dominic Geiger, p. 19, The Courier-Mail, 10 September 2016

There is 'a mountain' of evidence to support Direct Instruction.

Education Queensland , hang your head in shame.

Kate Jones, why do you have such an attachment to a curriculum and pedagogy that discriminates against the poor and disadvantaged?

I doubt you have done any research in this area.

There is a mountain of evidence to support Direct instruction (DI).

Noel Pearson is to be applauded for attempting to introduce DI in Aurukun.

The child-centred, fluffy, knowledge-light curriculum and hopeless inquiry based methods in our schools should be scrapped.

I dream of a day when we see a proper curriculum in Australia, one filled with facts and knowledge.

Kate Jones take note of the happenings in England.

Let our children have access to the best that has been said and thought in the world rather than sticking the children on google to find things out for themselves, or have them designing pretty posters.

Andy, Reader's Comment, Noel Pearson removes teaching curriculum from Aurukun, Michael McKenna, The Australian, 10 November 2016

Direct Instruction is better for boys.

Queensland 'progressives' are destroying Noel Pearson's Aurukun school because the school uses Direct Instruction.

Direct Instruction uses phonics and continues all through the school years using similar effective techniques.

It is much better for the disadvantaged and struggling students and better for boys.

Phonics is better for boys.

All the new teaching 'fads' are techniques that boys don't enjoy and so they are harder for boys -

 * removing competition and marks and replacing them with continuous assessment, 

 * taking away explicit teaching techniques.

 * removing discipline and teacher-directed learning.

 * 'collaborative and communicative' teaching techniques.

 * replacing 'doing' something with 'talking about it'.  

These changes and dozens of others made sure boys would suffer and dislike school.

Boys thrive with competition - without it, school is 'boring'.  


PTP,  Reader's Comment (edited version of two comments)    Five minutes of phonics to lift child literacy levels, Jennifer Buckingham, The Australian, 24 November 2016

Aurukun Year 3 NAPLAN scores crash. Noel Pearson "heartbroken". Jim Watterson leaves.

The Naplan reading scores of Year 3 students at Aurukun State School have crashed.

The reading score for the Year 3s -

was 335 in 2015 

and is 148 in 2017, the latest NAPLAN data shows.

This means the classmates of the eight-year-olds who were reading at above the national minumum standard two years ago are barely at preschool levels of comprehension now.

The grammar and punctuation score for the Year 3s -

was 216 in 2015

and is 80 in 2017.

The writing score for the Year 3s -

was 275 in 2015

and is 192 in 2017.

The Year 5's have flatlined on some measures.

Education Queensland says participation in NAPLAN tests has increased from 37 per cent to 67 per cent.

"I'm just completely heartbroken about the loss of opportunity for those kids," indigenous leader Noel Pearson said. 

Grandmother Phyllis Yunkaporta, who has a grandchild at the school, where she works at a teacher's aide, said it had " gone haywire" since Mr Pearson's Good to Great Schools Australia pulled out of the school.

"Our kids are out of control ... they are outside most of the time running amok," she said.

Mr Pearson has accused the outgoing director-general of Education Queensland, Jim Watterston, of washing his hands of the school and walking away from the ruins.

On Wednesday 11 October 2017 Mr Watterston announced that he was leaving to become dean of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne.

Troubled school's results plunge, Jamie Walker, P.7, The Weekend Australian, 14-15 October 2017


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